Easy OHS

Company Convicted For Backpacker Scalping

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A labour hire company has been fined $60,000 over a horrific workplace accident in which an Irish backpacker was scalped and lost an ear.

On November 7, 2015, Annie Dunne was cleaning a conveyor belt at a packing shed in Shepparton, which used two conveyors to deliver pears for distribution. 

As she assessed the underside of one of the conveyors, which the court heard staff members were required to clean while the machines were energised and moving, her hair became entangled in a rotating drive shaft and her scalp was torn from her head.

One of her ears was also ripped off in the incident.

According to reports at the time of the incident, it was believed Ms Dunne had been trying to fulfil the requirements of rural employment to gain a second year on her working holiday visa by working at the fruit-packing job.

On Thursday, T&R Contracting Shepparton Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Shepparton Magistrates Court to one breach of the OHS Act 2004 for failing to provide a safe working environment for Ms Dunne, by not providing instruction and training.

Article Courtesy of the Age Newspaper

In addition to a fine of $60,000 over the criminal charges, the company was also ordered to pay legal costs of $8091.

Kalafatis Packing Pty Ltd, the company that runs the packing shed, and its manager Dimitrios Vagelatos, are both also facing charges over the incident. They are due to face court in February.

WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said it was "staggering" that workers were expected to clean the machines while they were still in operation.

"All workers at this business were exposed to serious risks to their health and safety because a safe system of work was not in place," she added.

"There was no requirement to isolate the conveyors from energy sources during the cleaning process and no training provided to workers." 

Ms Williams added that by engaging workers for this packing shed, the labour hire business exposed workers to risk of serious injury and death.

"They should have ensured the workers were provided with a safe working environment and appropriate training at the workplace and not just left it to chance," she said.

WorkSafe Victoria was unsure whether the victim, Ms Dunne, was pursuing civil charges against any of the three parties.


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